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Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

According to a 2010 Census report, nearly 20% of people over the age of 5 in the United States speak a language other than English as their primary language.  That is 55.4 million people who speak 381 different languages!

In the labor force, the percentages are even higher.  According to a 2011 study by the Migration Policy Institute, more then 35% of the labor force speaks a language other than English. Employers are often able to communicate with these workers about their job responsibilities without ever really speaking the same language.  But what happens when these same employees become injured or sick?  Is there anyone with the medical vocabulary and understanding necessary to allow them to communicate with workers who are scared and hurt in a language that they understand?

For some people, not being able to fully understand English is inconvenient.  Maybe they have trouble following the plot of a movie or ordering in a restaurant.  But for someone who is seriously injured, not being able to understand the language could very well be a matter of life and death.  This is not a question of diversity –this is a question of health and safety.

When a worker is injured, they meet with doctors and insurance adjusters who set forth a plan for their care and rehabilitation.  But if an injured worker does not fully understand what is being said to them, how can they participate in their treatment and recovery?  How do they ask questions and follow instructions?

This type of misunderstanding can be scary and frustrating for everyone involved.  But the greatest risk of this language barrier becomes apparent when you consider the dangers associated with the dispensing and consumption of prescription drugs.  If a patient cannot understand the dosage limitations, potentially fatal drug interactions or allergy warnings on a prescription bottle – the results can be catastrophic.  Employers need to be 100% sure that their injured workers have a full understanding of what medications they are taking and how they should be taking them.

That is where ancillary care comes in.  Ancillary care providers are there to facilitate the recovery process for individuals who are being treated as the result of a workplace injury.  And one of the primary services that a quality ancillary care provider offers is translation. People cannot get better if they cannot understand.  Proper translation is critical to employees getting better faster.  So before you contract with an ancillary care provider, find out how they communicate with injured workers who do not speak English.  Will they answer questions in their native language?  Or only translate written documents?  Are appointments made and confirmed in the worker’s language?  Do they offer interpretation services as well as translation? Will they take the time required to make sure injured workers fully understand what is being said to them so they know what they need to do to get well?

Working with an ancillary care provider that can communicate in a workers native language is critical to an injured worker recovering quickly and safely.  With proper translation services, an injured worker can actively participate in their treatment, medical appointments can be made and confirmed, transportation can be scheduled and medications can be administered correctly.

When all the parties involved understand what is being said – things go smoothly. Recovery stays on schedule and people get well and back to work sooner.

LTD America is committed to educating companies about what to look for in an ancillary care provider.  And we know.  We provide ancillary care services in 381 languages across 50 states to thousands of people annually.  So if you want to know more about what to look for in an ancillary care provider, go to to learn more.